The movie “Dumb and Dumber To” is difficult to talk about. On the one hand, it isn’t a good movie. It is aggressively, unapologetically, hatefully bad. On the other, that is exactly what the movie advertised. And yet, somehow, the film manages to deliver even less than that, dragging on in a slog that will disappoint even fans of the original.
The film follows Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey), two bumbling fools who set out on a road trip to meet up with Harry’s long lost daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), so that she might give Harry a replacement kidney. But the plot quickly dissolves into a mess, throwing in more and more bizarre and tangential elements, such as secret inventions and a thoroughly dull murder plot, featuring thoroughly unfunny Rob Riggle playing the role of twins. Fans of the original loudly complained after the show that the plot leaped from an absurd, if somewhat grounded plot in the original, to bizarre flights of fancy today.
The plot being so insubstantial, it quickly dissolves into tangents and dream sequences trying desperately to keep the audience entertained. The most vile of these would have to be the extended sequence in which Lloyd imagines accompanying Penny to prom, and descends into a dull fight sequence.
The character of Penny provides a strange problem to the film. While she is just as, if not more foolish, than Harry and Lloyd, she seems generally good-natured and kind. She’s naive and sweet, and scenes with her are some of the few tolerable ones, despite her naivete being used as the basis for more than one uncomfortable joke about her sexual exploitation.
But her kindness, even in her stupidity, highlights just how nasty Harry and Lloyd can be. They’re not just dumb; they’re unpleasant and uncaring. Even when they are irrefutably presented with the fact they are hurting people, they delight in it. And no matter how may times the movie cajoles us into laughing along with them, the audience is just left uncomfortably staring at their antics.
But if Harry and Lloyd are mean, the movie’s six writers are even meaner. Perhaps 1994, when the original film was released, was not as sensitive an era as today, but now some of the film’s favorite subject matters seems to be just uncomfortable and gross.
Beyond the obvious jokes about the intellectually disabled, a particular glee seems to be taken in tormenting a blind character, a series of deaf jokes falls absolutely flat, potshots are taken towards the LGBT community – including one particularly ugly crack about gay youth homelessness – and Harry and Lloyd’s rampant, and consistently hideous misogyny is played for laughs.
Gross-out humor can be done well. Such films as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Johnny English” prove that some forms of juvenile humor can still ring funny at all ages and in all eras. “Dumb and Dumber To,” on the other hand, is simply a meandering, joyless trek into discomfort and boredom.